NZSA Submission to Tomorrows’ Schools Review

March 2019

NEW ZEALAND SOCIETY OF AUTHORS (PEN NZ INC)                         Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa

Background on NZSA:

  1. The New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ Inc) Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa was established in 1934 and is the principal organisation representing and supporting New Zealand writers. We are a membership-based organisation, representing nearly 1,600 writers through eight regional branches and hubs. NZSA is governed by a national board made up of an elected President and regional delegates from around the country.
  2. We engage on a wide range of issues such as copyright law review, PLR (expansion to include digital lending and private libraries), school library closures, lack of funding for school libraries, falling literacy rates and summer slide, promotion of NZ literature and cultural identity internationally, the creation of an ELR (educational lending right) scheme, the establishment of a children’s laureate post and issues of remuneration for ways writers can earn fair reward for their writing.
  3. We are affiliated to International PEN and are active with programmes such as Writers in Prisons NZ and international campaigns to protect the right to freedom of speech for imprisoned writers and journalists around the world. We produce a fortnightly e-news, monthly new books bulletins for our members and a quarterly NZ Author magazine and act as an information hub for the literary arts sector.
  4. We work closely with other literary arts organisations, government and Creative New Zealand to ensure that the professional interests of writers are strongly represented and that early, mid-career and experienced writers receive support and opportunities to develop their craft. We have representatives on a range of boards, committees and steering groups such as PLR, CLNZ, Northtec, Whitireia, The Accessible Formats Coalition, PEN International, the Burns Fellowship Trust, the Book Awards Management Trust, Writers in Prisons, NZ Book Council sector steering group, the Book Sector coalition and We Create. 
  5. We work alongside CLNZ, Booksellers NZ, Library organisations, The NZ Poetry Society, Storylines, The New Zealand Book Council, Playmarket and the Writers Guild and with Festivals and the Publishers Association of NZ.
  6. NZSA is a 50% co-owner of Copyright Licensing NZ Ltd along with the Publishers Association of NZ and NZSA is one of the founding stakeholders of The New Zealand Book Awards Trust and the proposed Book Sector Coalition.
  7. NZSA is part of the We Create coalition and we support the submission from that organization.

The New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ Inc) Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa


NZSA believes that STEAM not STEM should be at the heart of curriculum planning and the arts need to be valued for their contribution to wellbeing, cultural identity, emotional development and literacy. The NZ Treasury has now constructed a Living Frameworks Standard that measures the impact that the arts have on our wellbeing and our sense of identity. We believe funds have been diverted from the arts into technology in most schools, with a detrimental effect.

NZSA notes that NCEA examiners frequently comment on the lack of recently published New Zealand literature in external examination scripts. There seems to be a form of foreign acculturation or cultural cringe at play when teachers choose for example, an overseas dystopian trilogy, when we have a number of well-written local trilogies, which are also brilliant, polished and engaging, with accompanying teacher resources prepared free.

To assist MOE, the NZ Society of Authors (PEN NZ Inc) Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa has collated an advisory list NZ Texts for Secondary English.  This list has been gathered from NZ publishers and is listed by reading level, theme (e.g. coming of age, dystopia) and includes important links to teachers’ resources.

Playmarket reports that, a set list of stage plays linked to NCEA has resulted in a strong uptake of New Zealand play texts to Drama departments, but the same cannot be said for English Departments. By way of contrast, in Australia the New South Wales Board of Studies and the Australian Curriculum website offer extensive, annually reviewed lists of Suggested Texts, which incidentally include New Zealand authored texts, for use in primary and secondary schools. The MOE or English advisors (a position that no longer exists) have neglected to champion our local literature. Local content is seen as a cornerstone of reading lists by educationists in most countries.

The Ministry of Education needs to examine the amount of budgeted money that is currently allocated to schools to specifically purchase fresh book stock for schools and New Zealand literature.  There should be a specific amount allocated for purchase of books per student that cannot be siphoned off elsewhere into the operating budgets.

The New Zealand Book Council, in their 2018 reading survey, reported that, “Four hundred thousand (400,000) New Zealanders did not read a book in 2017” and that 40 per cent of us operate below the level of literacy needed for day-to-day life. This is a failure of schools to provide adequate literacy programmes. We know the benefits to educational achievement of regular reading: for knowledge, imagining, inventing, developing empathy and seeing the world around us reflected in our own body of New Zealand literature. Einstein said,’ if you want your children to succeed and invent, let them read books and dream in imaginary worlds’.

With the ‘whole book’ literacy movement of the 1980’s we understood the pedagogy and importance of learning to read using local stories about communities and landscapes that resonated with our experience; stories peopled with New Zealanders. Local content draws in less-able readers, and students of all abilities engage more if they see themselves reflected on the page.

If students are encouraged to read books by NZ authors, throughout their schooling, then the habit and love for NZ fiction will continue through to adulthood. Engagement with local culture: performance, art and story mean people fully participate in our society and that has many social benefits.

In order to reverse the trend of dwindling readership and sub-par literacy, reading needs to become an essential part of young people’s daily lives. Long-form recreational reading or hearing books read aloud supports positive mental health, a sense of well-being and belonging and is the biggest single indicator to bolster student’s academic success. Given the importance of reading to educational achievement, we are concerned the Ministry sanctions the closure or downgrading of school libraries.

NZSA believes that a principal closing a school library is tantamount to a dereliction of duty, and we are alarmed by these reports. We often hear of libraries that have ‘no budget’ this year, and sometimes next, while all available funds seem to go to IT; robbing library, resource room and sports equipment budgets. We ask tomorrows school to appropriately fund and recognise the importance of reading and school libraries. Reading underpins education across all subjects.

NZSA recognises the importance of having qualified librarians in schools. If the Ministry is committed to reversing our rates of declining functional literacy, it would install a qualified librarian in every school in tomorrows’ schools. The benefits of librarians trained in collection management and research techniques, who have a good knowledge of literature that can be passed on to students is immeasurable.  In many schools the library assistant is unqualified and paid the lowest rate for auxiliary staff. This practice undermines the professionalism and educational value a trained librarian can bring to all departments across the school and demonstrates false economy and reductive thinking.

There is no centralised decision-making regarding the school librarian’s purpose, position in the school and staffing. NZSA believes that the Ministry of Education is not putting enough emphasis on the importance of school librarians, school libraries and purchasing up to date New Zealand book stock that will meet required educational outcomes and reflect all aspects of curriculum and assessment requirements.

Creative New Zealand (CNZ) noted in its 2017/2018 annual report that an astonishing 91 per cent of young New Zealanders want to be involved in the arts and that, “Schools are major drivers of young people’s involvement in the literary arts.” An arts strategy for young New Zealanders is soon to be developed in partnership with other government agencies. The New Zealand Book Council supports visiting Writers in Schools and Storylines Story Tours do the same.  Asking the Ministry of Education to directly support librarians and English teachers to have current and engaging collections would also allow our young people to engage with New Zealand literature. This will encourage and draw attention to the creative industries as sustainable career options. Arts Matter: in education and as careers.

NZSA, the NZBC and others are part of a raft of organisations that are campaigning for the introduction of a New Zealand Children’s Laureate, a post that has been proven overseas to increase engagement with local children’s and young adult writing and raise the profile of local literature. In Australia the position is currently held by Morris Gleitzman and in the UK, by Malorie Blackman. We would ask the MOE to see this as a crucial step in engaging young readers and work with the NZBC and the NZSA to establish this post.

Research from the USA tells us that most teenagers want to read a physical book rather than a device, and site time spent reading as time when they are free of the incessant tug of social media and on-line learning.

In addition, Neuroscience is now telling us that students are not retaining information as well learning from screens as they did from textbooks. This is happening across subjects like physics and mathematics where research now indicates that formulas are not retained as well by students if they read off a screen, as opposed to the pages of a textbook.  

We ask Tomorrow’s Schools to address the concerning aspects of issues around on-line learning. There is a burgeoning amount of pedagogical research appearing in this area.NZSA asks the MOE to support the establishment of an ELR or Educational Lending Right scheme to compensate New Zealand authors for their books for their use in school and classroom libraries. We have a PLR Public Lending Right Scheme that operates and compensates writers for book held in public libraries but nothing for our schools. ELR schemes are in place in Australia, the UK, the EU and Canada, and New Zealand writers are being unfairly disadvantaged.

MOE does not require schools to hold a Copyright License, so 30% of our schools infringe copyright daily, as only 70% sign up voluntarily for licences. This should be regulated by MOE to be a cost of business compliance for every school. Schools would not consider evading software licenses and we feel that writers are not being recognised, valued or compensated for their contribution to learning. NZSA would ask the MOE to require all schools to have a copyright licence as a regulatory requirement of business compliance.

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